In China, Django will still get unchained (spoiler!), but the blood in the film won't look quite like it did here in the United States.
The reason? Censors.
Zhang Miao, the director of Sony Pictures' office in China, has announced that Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" has been approved for release in China by the national rating and censorship board, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. This marks the first time a Tarantino film has been distributed in the large and growing market. (China surpassed Japan in March to become the second-largest film market in the world, just behind the U.S. and Canada.)
In order to get approval for the Chinese release, Tarantino agreed to modify the film's dramatic violence, muting the color of the blood in some sequences and making the spray of the gore less intense.
And for a Tarantino film – especially this particular Tarantino film – that seems like it would require some heavy lifting. Not so, said Zhang. "What we call bloodshed and violence is just a means of serving the purpose of the film, and these slight adjustments will not affect the basic quality of the film – such as tuning the blood to a darker color, or lowering the height of the splatter of blood," Zhang said in an interview with China's Southern Metropolis Daily. "Quentin knew how to adjust that, and it’s necessary that he is the one to do it. You can give him suggestions, but it must be him who does [the tuning]."
Zhang added, "This adjustment for [Tarantino] is progress rather than a compromise."
Zhang didn't go into the technical details of how Tarantino altered his picture. Adjusting the color balance of the image so the red will be less vivid is fairly simple. In 1976, Martin Scorsese did it for the climax of "Taxi Driver" in order to secure an R rating for the film. And in a more dramatic example, Tarantino himself made the bloody battle between The Bride and the Crazy 88s in "Kill Bill: Vol. One" seem less gory by presenting the sequence in black and white for its American release. This allowed the film to secure an R rating in the United States, though overseas the scene appeared in full color.
Changing the amount of blood in "Django Unchained" is another matter. Given that Tarantino usually prefers practical, on-set effects rather than digitally applied bloodshed, it's anyone's guess what sort of work was done to make the copious bleeding less shocking.
However, the Southern Metropolis Daily reports that the Chinese edition of "Django Unchained" will run 165 minutes, the same as the U.S. version. This puts it ahead of "Skyfall" and "Cloud Atlas," both of which lose extensive footage before they were cleared for Chinese release. (The original version of "Django Unchained" has already been released in Hong Kong, which has a separate and less restrictive rating board than Mainland China.)
Suggesting there's no hard feelings about the changes, this month Beijing's Chinese Film Archive, a government funded film center, will host special screenings of Tarantino's "Jackie Brown" and "Sin City" – which he produced.
See the trailer for 'Django Unchained':